Ok…the fighting is probably lame…=P I have not read over this at all since I wrote it. I’m rather scared to. XD I am sure it goes way too fast…*shrugs* but whatever. =P …And I think I may have finally got Thalon to talk again O_O Oh yea. \m/ …=P
~Chapter Thirty Two~
Inside A Beating Heart
I halted, doubled over and gasping, beside my friends. Netya stood panting as well, her eyes wide and filled with an emotion I could not place. Thalon leant against the cold stone of the outer wall, palms pressing onto the rain-soaked surface. His head was bowed, and he did not move when I collapsed against the wall beside him. We were caught, pinned in a trap of our own making.
The cold rain falling ever against my face and running in freezing rivulets through my tangled hair and down the back of my neck caused me to shiver even after our long, futile race against captivity. I looked up, my eyes tracing back the path we had come, up to where the mouth of the cavern stood hidden behind grey walls and gloomy, ponderous stone. The shouts of Pethnor’s soldiers rang through the streets, and I heard the clashing of blades being drawn. They would find us in a moment, and all would be lost.
“It’s silly, all this for one person,” Thalon spoke suddenly beside me, straightening up and pushing himself away from the wall. “I’m sorry…it should not be so. You should not be here,” he added, looking from my cold face to Netya’s. “I have led you astray, and now you will suffer and die as well, where it should only be me standing here alone. If there was a way…We still have a moment. I will lead them away and you can run to the gate, or back out whatever way you came in. They will follow me, I know. You can escape, if you are fast.” Thalon walked quickly back to the end of the short street in which we were trapped.
I looked silently at Netya. She was staring after Thalon, shaking her head slowly. I turned and followed him, catching his sleeve as he looked cautiously in the direction the voices of Pethnor’s men came from. I pulled him back with me to the wall, a strength in my tired arms that I did not realize I had. Pressing him back against the stone, I looked up into his face, speaking for both Netya and myself. “No, Thalon,” I said quietly. “No. We will not go. I will not go. You know we cannot. Where you go, we will follow. Always. Be it safe home, or into the arms of whatever death is following on our heels. The soldiers will be here in a moment. We stand with you.”
Thalon did not resist me. His expression did not change, but I felt his eyes looking into mine, through my head and into my heart. It frightened me, and I let go of his arms, stepping haltingly back. I felt Netya’s hand brush against mine and I grasped it tightly, my shivering fingers interlocking with hers.
As if awakening suddenly from some deep recess of thought, Thalon suddenly blinked, and looked down, sighing. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I…thank you. This is all wrong. I have not done as I should, and kept you safe from harm as I promised. Can you forgive me?”
“No, Thalon,” Netya said quietly. “There is nothing to forgive.” She smiled at him, and I nodded in agreement.
His face broke slowly into the soft smile, so full of care, that I knew, erasing the lines of pain and anxiety from his face for a moment. “Then let us stand together,” he said, drawing his sword and stepping between Netya and I.
Netya nodded. “Yes. A cord of three strands.”
We stood beside Thalon, three wretched, silent creatures in a world full of chaos. My hand trembled as I drew my sword, the blade point shuddering in the storm. I bit my lip, thankful for the rain that hid my tears, and drew a wavering breath.
I looked up, my frightened eyes meeting Thalon’s again.
“Don’t be scared, Alasse,” he continued, smiling at me. “I’ll see you again. I promise.”
The shouting of our enemies grew louder, and all in a moment they were upon us. I saw them crashing, boiling around the corner into our trap, like a river overflowing its much-eroded banks. I could not see their faces. Their black masks seemed to jump leering and grimacing towards me, and it was only Thalon’s hand on my shoulder that kept me from flinging down my weapon and covering my face with my hands. A hundred sable lynxes flashed against a blood-red sky, the sun disintegrating in their dagger-toothed mouths. Their sinuous bodies drowned my vision, crowing into my mind until all I could hear was the roar of their voices, clamoring as one for my blood. I raised my blade and planted my feet.
A clash and shatter of steel against steel drowned the cries of the cats. Thalon had sprung forward, meeting the men blade to blade as they came on. My mind snapped to attention, the ringing steel chasing it back instantly to the present. I leapt forward, my own weapon singing in my ears. It twisted in my grasp, alive in the flame of battle. The first black face that rose before me reeled hurriedly back, a bright line of crimson spreading across its cheek. Like Arhael, I thought, and almost laughed. There was nothing to fear. I could fight. I could wield a blade, and fight. And Thalon had said we would meet again. He had promised. No, I would not be afraid.
Thalon fought like the black lynx on the breast of the man from whose grasp he had just ripped a sword. He moved like a man from the Castle Guard, swift and sure, yet not wasting an ounce of movement. Even against so many foes, he could yet hold his own a while. I turned, twisting away from his singing blade, and crossed behind him to fight at Netya’s side.
The black tide came on, and we were forced to give back or give up. The fight seemed to last an hour, two hours, a day, and yet I knew it could barely be seconds. Pethnor’s men pressed closer, and we stood with our backs to the wall, unable to retreat further. It was all I could do to keep the men from getting inside the reach of my sword and catching me without defense. Netya gasped, exhaustion written in pain across her face. Thalon did not appear to tire, yet I knew what little energy he had must be waning fast. Whenever our weapons struck home, the wounded man stepped back and was replaced by two more dancing masks. I could not hold out much longer and I knew that the moment I dropped my sword, all was lost. We would be finished before the fight could even begin.
A burning fire leapt into my heart and I gasped, flinging up my sword too late. Cruel laughter split my skull in two as the man jerked his sword away from me, my blood dripping from the blade. Gritting my teeth, I tightened my grip on the hilt of my blade, shutting my eyes for a fraction of a second. I let the pain of the wound overflow, and erupt into my arms as fury. Growling, I sprang forward, watching as though through another pair of eyes as the guard’s leer soured and twisted into a choking cry of pain. He fell back, stumbling away, and another sprang up in his place. I lashed out again, but could not break his guard.
In the press of the fight, Thalon and Netya had been forced from my side. We stood now, together and yet so alone, fighting to keep afloat. My mind played tricks on me, flipping in my head as I struggled to raise my sword to block another shattering blow. They say drowning men surface three times before the waves claim their life. I wonder how many breaths I have left? I pushed the thought away, shaking my wet hair from my face to keep focused on the battle. Three against thirty. Three against three hundred. Three against Death himself. The point of a sword slipped within my guard, catching on the pommel of my own weapon and bearing it upwards with wrenching strength. It flipped spinning from my grasp, my raw fingers searching after it hopelessly. It dropped clanging to the muddy ground, just out of my reach. The eyes of the soldier before me locked with mine as he clamped his foot firmly down over my blade. He paused a moment, pulling his mask aside so I could see him laugh as his blade sprang towards my heart.